Philadelphia V Honored WWII Cruiser's
Crew Interrupts Reunion for Navy Rites Today
By Joe Clark, Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: September 23, 1987
They dropped anchor last Saturday in Columbia, Md. They'll pull it up
this Saturday. In between, they're doing some shopping, partying, touring,
even a little fishing.
And today, they'll be a little reminiscing.
About 150 former crewmen of the USS Philadelphia, a cruiser that earned
five battle stars during World War II, will bus their way up I-95 to be
honored at ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of their ship's commissioning.
The crew - and some of their mates - is interrupting its 24th annual reunion
to attend the ceremonies at the Philadelphia Naval Base, where the Philadelphia
was built, launched and commissioned 50 years ago today.
Mayor Goode has marked the occasion by proclaiming today "USS
The ship is the fifth of six vessels to bear the city's name. The first
was under the command of Benedict Arnold and was part of the Continental
Navy. It was sunk by the British in 1776, but was raised in 1935 and is
now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Ask any of the guys attending today's ceremonies, and they'll tell
you Philadelphia V - "The Galloping Ghost of the Sicilian Coast" -
was the best of the lot.
It had a fantastic war record," said Frank Amoroson, 67, former radarman
first class. He noted the Philadelphia had participated in, among other
action, the assault on French Morocco, the invasion of Sicily and the advance
through Anzio. "It was the terror of the terrain," he said.
Amoroson, of Somerset, N.J., served on the ship from 1941 to 1946.
He called them "the best years of my life."
After being decommissioned in 1946, the ship was sold to Brazil and wound
up being the flagship of the Brazilian navy. In 1975, the 10,000-ton cruiser
was sold to Japan for scrap at 5 cents a pound.
The Philadelphia might have provided the men with their best years, but
it also provided some of their hairiest moments.
"I remember one time during an air attack we ended up in a mine
field, not knowing what direction to turn. One of the bombs missed, but
it blew us clear out of the water," said Orville Phillips, 78, of
Mayfair, onetime machinist first class.
And Bob Gravel, 74, formerly of Olney, believes "the Philadelphia
was one of the most fortunate ships in the Navy."
"Five invasions, but we never got hit," recalled Gravel. "We
had a couple of close ones, though. During the invasion of Salerno, the
USS Savannah got hit ( with a bomb ) . It was 300 yards away. Three hundred
men were killed."
But, as Amoroson recalled, there also was time "to raise a lot
of hell. That ship has given me some wonderful memories. We left our
mark in a lot of places - Newfoundland, Iceland, Casablanca, France,
Italy . . ."
And then there was Scotland.
When I got to Scotland, I was in love with a girl in New Brunswick," said
Amoroson. "I had a 12-hour pass. I saw a little wedding band with
a teeny diamond in a window in Glasgow. It cost $20. That was a lot of
money for a sailor, but I bought it.
When I got back home, I gave the ring to my intended wife. We were married
the same night, July 30, 1942."